After his first professional role at age 11, Kris D. Lofton knew he had to be an actor. He’s scored more screen time in movies like Meet the Browns and the TV series Ballers. But his biggest role to date, playing Janerd on the Curtis “50 Cent” Jackson helmed series, Power Book IV: Force, is the one that’s reassured him he made the right choice to pursue this challenging field for the past 25 years. Much like his character, Lofton has been underestimated, but he’s proving he’s the antithesis of that notion–a peacock ready to bloom. 

Here, he shares with EBONY how his first role set his craft, the classic cop movie he’d like to remake and the most important man in his life.   

I played Clarence in the movie Hardball, which was my first film role. I was just a kid from the west side of Chicago. I knew nothing about acting so it was a whole new world. It opened my mind and shaped me. It showed me there was more possibility for a little Black boy from the inner city. He didn’t just have to play football. He didn’t have to play basketball. He didn’t have to be a rapper. I know standing here in 2023, that doesn’t sound too far-fetched. But in 2000, few little Black boys thought they could be on TV.  

Thinking about the biggest challenges I face as a Black man in the entertainment industry, I would throw in one word: I’m not the “safe” Black man, or the industry standard of what’s safe in appearance. I don’t have dimples and pretty white teeth, nor am I someone without ear piercings and tattoos; what the industry would consider a clean slate. I may be rougher around the edges, but I’m trying to change that narrative. I want to be seen outside of that light and allow my choices and performances to show people I can play the doctor, the father, the husband, the boyfriend. It doesn’t just have to be “thug number one” or “gang member.”

I go hard every day I work on these sets; I’m not missing a beat. I’m not there to play. I’m not messing up my lines. I’m not late. Some people are acting because they want to be famous, it’s a hobby they picked up or it’s just their job. I’m acting for my life.

Kris Lofton

That’s a different level of preparation, readiness and mentality. I have two dream roles: to be an undercover cop and to play a serial killer like Kevin Costner in Mr. Brooks. We’re here at EBONY, so I will verbalize this out loud: It’s always been my goal and dream to redo the movie In Too Deep. I would love for Omar Epps, who was in the original 1999 film, to executive produce and star. I would be the new undercover cop. He would be my commanding officer, like the character Preston was for him. Everybody needs to go back and watch that film because what LL Cool J did in the movie is not talked about enough. His performance was worthy of an Oscar.

Hollywood must embrace us on a bigger scale, not just on sets. Embrace us in the rooms where you talk about all of the things that are going to happen. Oprah Winfrey once said, if you ever want to be rich, never eat dinner alone again. Invite us to those dinners and from that, you’ll subconsciously start to embrace our stories more because you’ve learned to embrace us truly.

Kris Lofton. Image: Keith Major for EBONY
Kris Lofton. Image: Keith Major.

Being a Black male artist, that’s a vulnerability within itself. We put ourselves in vulnerable situations daily with our passion, work and craft, then lay it all on the line for strangers.

Kris Lofton

As Black men, we don’t share much. We take everything to the chest and then take it to the grave. Trusting somebody enough to vocalize anything that’s going wrong in your life, opening up about your thoughts and feelings and emotions; if you can discuss that with someone else as a Black man in today’s society, that’s vulnerability. I’ve been one of those Black men. I’ve never talked to a therapist, but I am open to it and have been looking. I tap into my sensitive side by just being aware and being a very optimistic person when it comes to the world. I look at things subjectively because you have to always equate for variables, so I think about things that way, and I feel like that’s how I tap into my sensitive side. It allows me to have empathy that I didn’t know was there. 

Black men need to take time to relax. I love candles and incense. I’m just that guy. Take some candles in the bathroom, light the incense, turn all the lights off, take a shower and play music. This is not the time for gangster rap. Whatever playlist you would play if you were going to get a massage and they allowed you to play your music, play that. Nothing matters to me at that moment, and that’s how I get a handle on things. I also cook; I get in it a little bit. I make my own sauces. I’m the cooker in a relationship.

What scared me the most in this industry was the thought of not reaching success before my parents were gone. I’ve been doing this for 25 years. That’s why it meant so much to me to be on a show like Power Book IV: Force. At that moment, I finally got to show my parents, “This can happen.” Being able to buy my mom that house, my dad that pickup truck and gifts for my sisters is part of the goal.

I grew up with mostly women, my mom and my sisters and I have two nieces. They taught me to care. It was just me and my dad repping for the guys, and he is the most significant man in my life. I watched him work two and three jobs as a kid. You must put in the work, show up and be present every day, no matter what. Don’t get too high with the highs and never get too low with the lows. Just stay even-keeled. That’s been my father my entire life. He moved from small-town Mississippi to Chicago with a wife and a kid and made it happen. How he’s handled his life—I know he probably did things he didn’t want to or never pictured himself doing—but he did it because he had a responsibility as a man. That guides me more than he knows. So shout out to Willie Lofton. 

My favorite charitable outlet is Be Powerful, LLC, run by my pal LaRoyce Hawkins. He’s an actor in Chicago P.D. He’s from Harvey, Illinois, and does many things for the community. He’s truly a pillar and a role model in the community; he pays for murals to be put up and has cleanup crews picking up trash every day in the neighborhood. He employs so many people from his family, friends and the community. So y’all go donate. Be powerful.